A couple years ago, I went fishing on the West Branch of the Delaware River at one of its less charming, but still very fishy, access points, the village of Deposit waste water treatment plant.
There’s a nice mix of water there — shallow riffles and deeper holes. As usual, a nice hatch of sulfur mayflies was coming off, and trout were rising at a good clip.
Here, Oquaga Creek meets the West Branch. It being July and Oquaga being a natural creek, the water temperature of the tributary was probably in the low 70s, while the West Branch itself, which consists almost entirely of water released at the bottom of a tall reservoir dam, was no warmer than the low 50s.
That cold water is what keeps the West Branch full of trout. The warm water in Oquaga, on the other hand, kept the creek full of humongous carp — 10-pounders and up, dozens and dozens of them, milling about in the creek, unwilling to venture into the frigid West Branch.
Any one of these fish could have wrecked a trout reel if it wanted to.
I didn’t notice any of them feeding at the moment, but they had to eat sometime, and if a fly-fisher was there at the right time and dropped a Woolly Bugger with bead-chain eyes in front of a mudding carp’s nose, he or she would have had more excitement than the trout fishers in the river with their precious little dry flies.
But of course, we all walked right past them. It’s become a cliché, but like most clichés, it’s mostly true — carp are the Rodney Dangerfields of sport fish. No respect.
But that’s changing fast. Carp fishing is catching on in the Capital Region and across the country.
“I’m fortunate to have fished around the world for a variety of species, but I am addicted to fly-fishing for carp locally,” said Tyler Atkins, a staffer at the Orvis Co. headquarters in Manchester, Vt. “I enjoy sight fishing for challenging fish, and carp provide that opportunity within a short drive from work or home. Once you hook them, they are big and powerful, often taking you well into the backing. Why would you not want to fish for them?”
Atkins will give a talk on fly-fishing for carp on May 20 at the Clearwater chapter of Trout Unlimited’s monthly meeting at the Albany Ramada Plaza Hotel, 3 Watervliet Ave. Ext., Albany. The meeting is free and open to the public. It will begin at 7:30 p.m.
In case there’s anyone left who thinks carp fishers don’t have the skills to catch trout, note that Atkins was part of the team that caught more fish than any other in tournament history at the Friends of the Upper Delaware River One Bug contest last weekend.
In fact, carp are fussy and spooky, which is a big part of their appeal. Hooking them requires precise casting, and landing them is an adventure.
In fact, carp are sometimes compared to bonefish because you don’t fish the water blindly — you target individual fish.
“When fly fishing for carp, you want to find fish that are actively feeding, by looking for mud puffs or tailing fish,” Atkins said. “Polarized glasses with brown or amber lens are a must to be successful. I typically ignore the fish that are laid up or appear to be sunning themselves. They are obvious targets and tempting, but rarely take a fly.”
For flies, Atkins likes the Pops Bonefish Bitters, invented by Craig Mathews, and the May’s Full Motion Crayfish, a Canadian pattern originally designed for smallmouth bass. He recommends a 7-weight as an all-around carp rod, but says a 6- or 8-weight will work, too.
Forced to choose between the 6 and the 8, and remembering those lunker carp stacked up at the mouth of Oquaga Creek, I’d take the 8.
More about the Clearwater TU chapter can be found at its website, www.clearwatertu.org.